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Thursday, 3 June 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- Sub-item 5b refers to blouses, skirts, underwear, and bathing costumes. The old rate was 45 per cent. British and 60 per cent., general. It is now proposed to have a flat rate of1s. British,1s. 6d. intermediate, and 2s. general, on cotton garments, and 2s. 6d. British, 3s. 6d. intermediate, and 4s. 6d. general, on any garments containing wool or silk. The average working man, who has been able to purchase an undershirt or a pair of under-trousers for about 5s. or 5s. 6d., will in future, be compelled to pay anything from 7s. 6d. to 8s. I ask the Minister to explain the necessity for placing that additional burden upon the people of Australia. I shall probably receive the reply that the Australian Knitting Mills has not been able to compete successfully with the products of Great Britain that have been imported into Australia, and that it is necessary to impose a flat rate to enable that industry to continue. I want the Minister to tell me if the leading knitting mills of Victoria approached the Tariff Board for increased protection, because, if they did, I should like to remind him thai the mill which is turning out the most reputable and reliable brands of underwear has had, recently, very successful years. Last year it paid a dividend of 10 per cent., and today its £1 shares are quoted - buyers 32s. This is the mill which has the biggest trade in Australia'.

Senator Elliott - If that mill was in operation before the war, it must have piled up a lot of profits.

Senator PAYNE - There is always some way of getting out of the difficulty. I do not believe this mill applied for additional protection ; it did not need it. I call the attention of honorable senators to the effect this tariff will have on articles of attire.Undervests containing wool, the British export price of which is 2s. 5d., paid a duty of1s.1d. under the 1921 tariff. Under the present proposals, they will pay a duty of 3s. 4d. We can imagine what the cost of these undervests will be with a duty of 3s. 4d. on an article whose export price is 2s. 5d. Men's brown balbriggan shirts, the British export price of which is1s. 31/2d. each, paid a duty of 7d. under the 1921 tariff. Under the present proposals, they will pay a tariff of1s. 51/2d. Men's cream cotton and artificial silk shirts, the British export price of which is 3s. 4d., paid a duty of1s. 51/2d. under the 1921 tariff. Under the present proposals, they will pay a duty of 3s. 71/2d. Girls' woollen undervests, the British export price of which is103/4d., paid a duty of 41/2d. under the 1921 tariff. Under the present proposals; they will pay a duty of 2s. 93/4d. I have worked out fifteen of these items, the invoice value of which is £2 3s. 53/4d. Under the 1921 tariff, they paid a duty of 19s.11/2d. Under the present proposals, the duty will be £2 7s. 61/4d., more than 100 per cent. Are honorable senators prepared to place this unnecessary burden on the people? I do not wish to reduce the present tariff. No one can suggest that I want to reduce duties, and have freetrade. I have never submitted any proposal to reduce existing tariffs. As a matter of fact, my idea is to provide an increase on the tariff of 1921, but not the prohibitive increase provided in this schedule.

Senator Guthrie - Have the mills at Launceston, and other mills in Tasmania, asked for increased duties?

Senator PAYNE - I do not think so.

Senator Grant - The honorable senator is taking an Australian view of the matter.

Senator PAYNE - I am. I am asking honorable senators to vote against the proposed duties of 2s. 6d. British, 3s. 6d. intermediate, and 4s. 6d. general, with a view to reverting to the 192.1 rates of 45 per cent. British, and 60 per cent, general. If our knitting industry cannot hold its own with a protection of 45 per cent, against British manufacturers, plus 10 to 15 per cent, additional protection in the shape of costs in getting the goods from Great Britain, making the total protection nearly 60 per cent., they are not worth considering. As a matter of fact, they can carry on at the existing rates, and carry on magnificently. I shall later on produce evidence to show that one of the manufacturing firms who have asked for the higher protection has openly admitted that big profits were made by it last year, and that its factory extended by leaps and bounds under the 1921 tariff. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (5) (b) (1) (b), by leaving out the figures 2s. 6d., 3s. 6d., and 4s. 6d.

If this is agreed to, I shall move a request to insert other figures.

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